Effective May 1, 2013, Colorado enacted the Civil Unions Act into law. The Act legally recognizes civil unions. In addition, it provides that Colorado Courts have jurisdiction over the dissolution of any civil unions entered into in Colorado after the effective date, as well as of any civil unions, domestic partnerships, and same-sex marriages entered into in other states if domicile requirements are met.
Colorado is a no fault state. For a dissolution, the marriage or union must be irretrievably broken and one of the parties must have been domicile in the state 91 one days or more immediately preceding the filing.
Provided there is proper jurisdiction over both parties, the court can enter orders not only dissolving the marriage or union, but also addressing the parental responsibilities of the parties’ children, equitably dividing the marital/union’s assets and debt, awarding maintenance if warranted, ordering support for the benefit of the children, assessing fees and costs, and approving a requested name change.
A declaration of invalidity under Colorado law is an interesting legal remedy. If one of the applicable factors is satisfied, the marriage or union will be deemed invalid from the inception. However, everything else is decided just like a dissolution – property is divided, maintenance is determined.
Colorado is one of the few states that will enter legal separations. The same requirements for a dissolution are applicable, as is the same relief. However, at the end of the proceeding, rather than being divorced, the parties are still deemed legally married. Interestingly, though, the IRS treats them as if they were divorced, as do some insurance providers.
Colorado also is unique in that it recognizes common law marriages. The parties simply must hold themselves out to their community as husband and wife. Common law marriage is “all in.” The parties are deemed married for all purposes, including having to file taxes under married status. Also, they must go through a formal divorce to end their marriage. Sometimes, the parties disagree as to whether they were common law married and as of when. An evidentiary hearing must be held for the court to consider the facts and determine whether a marriage, in fact, was formed.